INE MONTHS OF THE YEAR I AM an educator, specifically the boys’ dean at Thunderbird Adventist Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona. I love working with kids. So much so, I have spent my summers with them at camp as a counselor, and later, camp director.
I began teaching at the secondary level 20 years ago at a small public high school in the forested mountains of central Arizona. One day my wife asked me: “If you had your choice, what would you really like to do?”
“I’d like to work at a Christian school,” I replied, “where I could share God in the classroom without fear of parental or administrative reprisals, teach automotive, and maybe even a Bible class.”
Some weeks later, after 13 years in public education, I received a phone call out of the blue asking if I would consider moving to Scottsdale and taking the position of dean at Thunderbird Academy, teach a Bible class, and if I was willing, perhaps an automotive class. (Is that You calling, God?)
Faith in Action
At the close of my first year at Thunderbird, I again traipsed off to camp in the cool White Mountains and another summer with kids. My fellow teachers thought I was nuts (which is what they also said at my last school). But the previous summer at camp I’d had a faith experience that changed my life. Then came the call to Thunderbird. So now I was curious about what God was going to do this year. I prayed that something would happen that would grab the kids by the heartstrings, something to make them know God is real and waiting to reveal Himself to them. Neither the kids nor I had to wait long.
The camp had rented two 15-passenger Ford vans for the summer to supplement our bus. Coincidently, for Hispanic camp a sponsor for a half dozen girls from the southern end of the state had rented an identical van for their use.
One afternoon rain had curtailed our outdoor activities, so we decided to take all the campers to town and avail ourselves of its indoor pool. Every vehicle would be needed to transport the campers, including the girls’ van.
As we gathered in the lodge, the girls’ driver told me she had a problem. They had accidentally locked the keys in their van; she asked if I could help.
Commandeering the keys to our two vans, I braved the rain and ran to the girls’ village, where their locked van was parked. Pointing the electronic key fobs in the direction of the vehicle, I pushed the appropriate buttons and, voilà, nothing.
Undaunted, I proceeded to try all the keys on the two rings I held in each of the van’s locked doors; still nothing. I checked all the windows; they were latched tight. On the engine cover, between the front seats, lay the keys in full view. A hanger would do no good and would only cause damage. I could call a locksmith, but the nearest one was 13 miles away. I could break a window. . . .
Recognizing I had been relying upon my own methods, I bowed my head and asked God to forgive my self-reliance, my dependence upon my own strength, and replace it with His power. I asked Him to unlock the van, not for my vain glory, but for His majesty and the sake of the young campers; so they would know that God meets our needs, even in supernatural ways, as we learn to replace our self-reliance with total reliance upon His strength working in us.
Just This Once
Beginning with the passenger side door, I again inserted each key, wiggling and jiggling in each of the locks until once more I ended up at the driver’s door. Nothing!
Again I bowed my head, closed my eyes, laid my hand on the door, and in faith, asked God, not for help, but to make one of the keys I held in my hand open the door for His honor and glory.
Attempting now for the third time to unlock the van, I inserted the first key again. It was useless, as before. “God,” I prayed, “in the name of Jesus Christ, make one of these four keys work, for Your name’s sake.” I then inserted the second key, one I had tried in all four locks twice before. It turned immediately to the left, as smooth as a hot knife through butter, but nothing happened. My heart raced as my stomach fell to my feet. Shaking, I realized I had turned the key in the wrong direction. The door remained locked.
I prayed yet again: “Oh, God, for Thy glory, for the sake of these kids, make this key work in the other direction.” With fear and trembling and holding fast to faith (total reliance upon His strength), I turned the key in the opposite direction.
It went back to center as smoothly as it had to the left. Continuing the motion to the right, the key moved within that tumbler as though it was cut to do so. All the locks instantly popped up. The key then returned effortlessly back to center and withdrew without the slightest resistance.
Upon opening the door, I grabbed the keys off the engine cover and compared them to the one in my hand . . . no similarity, none, other than the Ford logo.
Questions for Reflection
1. When is the last time you had an unusual answer to prayer? Recall it briefly.
2. What are some barriers to asnwered prayer? List at least three. What are some conditions for answered prayer? List at least three.
3. How do you pray in a way that counters the image of God as a heavenly vending machine (pay your money and get your answer)?
4. Is there anything wrong or dangerous about praying for a specific answer or outcome?
I ran back to the lodge oblivious of the rain, praising God and thanking Him for the gift of faith, knowing once again that He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to [relying upon] his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).
One of the kids, upon hearing all that had just happened, asked: “Did you try it again?”
My response was immediate: “My Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God’ [Luke 4:12, KJV], “but since you don’t believe, I’ll go back and try it again.” After five minutes of jimmying and wiggling that key, it would not work a second time. The door remained locked.
I traced the outline of those two keys onto paper and now keep it in my Bible. Each year in my dormitory I tell the new students this story and a number of similar ones that have happened to me since. On the ceiling beams of our dorm chapel I have inscribed verses of faith, one of which is Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Neither the gates of hell nor the locked doors of vans can prevail against Him.